Promises vs painful realities
By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
August 10, 2003

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‘…the goals are being jeopardised by the failures of the powerful "haves" to deliver, as pledged, to the weak “have-nots”

AS HAS HAPPENED in this and other Caribbean Community states, the recent release of the annual Human Development Report for 2003 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),was used in Barbados by governing and opposition politicians to score points on "progress", stagnation or, worse, falling living standard.

It is perhaps understandable that politicians would play politics with this annual UNDP report, that may very well provide the most comprehensive and vital statistics located in any single official international document that sytematically focuses on measures of progress, or failures to advance the living standards of peoples the world over.

There are those in power who seek to highlight or propagandise when their country moves up the Human Development Index (HDI), as defined or categorised in the Human Development Report.

Politicians in opposition tend to do the opposite. They prefer to remind us of falling ratings, or slow recovery back to positions once held in the HDI, as they scoff at the positive gains claimed by officialdom.

There is something gross about such a political game, especially when uncritically facilitated by the media, whether in the Caribbean region or elsewhere, while it fails to focus on the persistent national problems of levels of poverty and deprivation of essential social services for survival with dignity across the poor and poorest of nations.

The scenario becomes worse when the mind-boggling problems of existence for the great mass of the poor and powerless are seemingly mocked by the failure of the rich and powerful to honour their pledges of aid, and escape with precious little rebuke from the international institutions and agencies that matter.

Of the 173 countries ranked in their varying levels of development in the 2003 Report, 59 have been identified as "priority" cases requiring intensified efforts to attain the "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) as set by the UN-convened 2000 Millennium Summit.

The release of the 2003 Report virtually coincided with the recent 'Group of Eight Summit' in France at which there was a reaffirmation of support for the MDGs. Encouraging as this "reaffirmation" was, the reality is different.

The goals of the Millennium Summit range from halting the spread of HIV/AIDS; significantly reducing extreme poverty, improving basic necessities like clean drinking water, to the achievement of universal primary education.

But the goals are being jeopardised by the failures of the powerful "haves" to deliver, as pledged, to the weak "have-nots".

The UNDP estimates that yearly aid flows must be doubled to US$100 billion, at a minimum, to help meet the Millennium Goals.This has to be linked to national efforts, including reallocation of resources for poverty reduction, to assist the poorest nations to achieve minimum development targets.

But who from among the wealthy and powerful nations will step up to the plate? Last year the long decline in aid flows finally rose to US$57 billion, or just below US$5 billion more than in 2001. That left a yawning gap of US$43 billion of what's really required as the minimum to meet the Millennium Goals.

Since the Millennium Summit, the world has become a considerably changed place with the terrorist strikes against the USA on September 11, 2001 and the United States-led war for "regime change" in Iraq.

The USA alone is now spending a whopping US$4 billion (Billion) a month to maintain its military stranglehold on Iraq where the feared weapons of mass destruction has suddenly turned into weapons of mass 'disappearance'!

What chance, I wonder, is there really for that minimum aid flow of US$100 billion to meet the Millennium Goals to help ease the agony for the world's poverty-stricken, disease-ravaged, and the millions existing on an average of merely US$1 a day!

Neither CARICOM states like Barbados, currently at the apex of the Human Development Index among Caribbean and Latin American nations with a 27 rating. nor Trinidad and Tobago, doing well with its oil-based economy but standing at 54 in the "high development" category, can overlook their own levels of poverty---approximately ten and 20 percent respectively---amid continuing inequalities as well as deprivation of essential services, such as potable water supply, electricity and sanitation.

However varied their measure of progress within recent years, countries like Jamaica and Guyana remain in the "medium" human development category in the HDI ratings at 78 and 92 respectively. They, therefore, have much to aim for in the pursuit of new development strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

In addition to its very valuable Human Development Report, the UNDP is also releasing copies of what has been hailed by some non-governmental agencies as a "path-finding" publication---"Making Global Trade Work for People".

The international sponsors of the 341-page book, chockfull of data and analyses, point to the overall guidance gained from a group of eminent experts in global economic policies, governance, trade and human development in the production of the publication that focuses on key reforms in the global governance of trade.

It also provides a helpful understanding of how poor and developing nations are suffering from lack of market access for agricultural commodities, textiles and clothing, all critical for economic progress and the livelihood of their poor and powerless.

A glaring example of the double-speak of the rich and powerful, apart from failing to deliver on committed levels of aid, is the estimated US$1 billion a day the OECD bloc of countries spend in domestic agricultural subsidies---more than six times what they spend on official development assistance for developing states. .

The serious implications of this agricultural subsidies policy, together with the related dumping of agricultural exports by the industrialised countries, for developing states, like those of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group, are analysed in the book that also offers "a vision for the future"

The "vision" that emerges has been summarised in the following four basic principles for acceptance and implementation:

*Trade is a means to an end--not an end in itself.

*Trade rules should allow for diversity in national institutions and standards;

*Countries should have the right to protect their institutions and development priorities; and

*No country has the right to impose its institutional preference on others.

"Making Global Trade Work for People" is a publication that should be made available for the widest possible distribution among all stakeholders with an interest to arrest the downward slide for far too many developing countries.

Some 60 of such countries have become even poorer over the last decade, amid all the swelling rhetoric and pledges that flow from the rich and powerful in reference to the poor and powerless.

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